Cognitive science of religion (CSR) seeks to understand religious thinking and actions in light of evolutionary development and cognitive processes. Cognitive science, the field on which it’s based, is interdisciplinary in nature, that is, it intersects many specializations, such as psychology, computer science, linguistics, neuroscience, etc.. CSR is a tremendously fascinating field of work that is making sense of religion in ways unimagined by theologians in centuries past.
And I’m sure you were thinking just the other day, where can I find three interesting books on CSR? That’s where this post comes in, below are good forays into the discussion and they’re even available for immediate download.
1) Cognitive Science, Religion, and Theology: From Human Minds to Divine Minds by Justin L. Barrett
The eighth title in the Templeton Science and Religion Series, Cognitive Science, Religion, and Theology is an introduction to the field of CSR by Justin L. Barrett. An approachable volume, Barrett defines terms, explains concepts, and never leaves the reader guessing as to the significance CSR has for understanding religion and the direction the field is taking. (Available for Kindle.)
2) Minds and Gods: The Cognitive Foundations of Religion by Todd Tremlin
Minds and Gods was reviewed here at The Discarded Image some time ago. This book, “explains the origins and persistence of religious ideas by looking through the lens of science at the common structures and functions of human thought.” It is a very good read that looks at the nature of supernatural belief and the similarities between human conceptions of divine beings in light of evolutionary development. While this is not a highly technical book—it assumes the need to introduce the reader to concepts and solutions—it is not short on substance. It’s also available for Kindle, so you can start reading it right away.
3) Theological Incorrectness: Why Religious People Believe What They Shouldn’t by Jason Slone
Moving beyond introductions to CSR, Theological Incorrectness examines the cognitive basis for unorthodox behavior, showing that theology is often in tension with how believers think. “Since religion is a product of ordinary cognition,” says Slone, “religious people are prone to religious reasoning errors-at least when compared against official theological doctrines.” For example, while participants in an experiment acknowledged the theologically correct answer that “God can do all things at one time,” they nevertheless “represented God as, like humans, having to complete one task before attending to another.” The way humans think does not always comport with the beliefs they espouse. Sloan uses CSR to get at the “why.” And yes, this is also available on Kindle.
So what are you waiting for? Get on with the reading already.